Ted Mann's story could be the classic example of reaping the benefits of persistence and dedication. An enthusiastic boy with an infectious love for cinema, Mann grew from a young theater usher into a shrewd though compassionate entrepreneur and the owner of one of the most renowned movie theaters in the history of Hollywood. "Not bad for a sod kicker from the sticks," as Mann once joked with a close friend.
Born in Wishick, N.D., in 1916, Mann began to harbor his love for the movies while working as an usher and attending the University of Minnesota in the 1930s. Leasing the troubled Selby Theater for $100 a month, Mann breathed new life into the movie house, running the place almost single-handedly and tackling responsibilities from popping the popcorn to running the projector. Acquiring 25 more theaters and drive-ins throughout Minnesota by the age of 40, Mann sold his successful theater chain to General Cinema Corporation in 1970.
After selling the chain that he had worked so diligently to improve, Mann moved to Southern California in order to seek a more intimate role in the production of film. In the following years, Mann would serve as producer on successful films, including The Illustrated Man (1969). Then in 1973 Mann returned to his successful roots by purchasing and rejuvenating the troubled National General Theater chain. Re-christening the chain Mann Theaters, Mann launched a massive expansion from 276 screens to 360 screens across the U.S., again breathing new life into a seemingly doomed chain. Though Mann's renaming of Grauman's Chinese Theater brought the entrepreneur much criticism, Mann's Chinese Theater continued to serve as an important symbol of the Hollywood machine, hosting glamorous premieres and offering star-gazers the chance to seek out the preserved cement handprints of their most beloved cinematic heroes. In 1986 Mann sold the company to Paramount Communication predecessors Gulf and Western, though he continued to serve as chairman to the chain. As he continued to find success in the production of film with such titles as Krull (1983), Mann also tried his hand at writing for such television series as Millennium (1996) and Judging Amy (1999) and such films as Space Truckers (1997) and Veeck As in Wreck (2001).
Though Mann's most immediately recognizable work may be in the entertainment industry, his charitable contributions were appreciated by many, serving as a testament to his generosity and an example of his compassionate nature. The Ted Mann Foundation contributes to several charities, and Mann was also a founder and president of the Boys Club of Minneapolis and the Landmark West School for children with dyslexia. Always maintaining a close relationship with his family throughout his hectic career, Mann married actress Rhonda Fleming in 1977, a relationship that would yield four children and two granddaughters, and last until his death in early 2001.
~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi